Human rights laws require a global ban on fracking, say postgraduate researchers at the Irish Centre for Human Rights

May 24 2021 Posted: 10:32 CDT

Report analysing the human rights impacts of fracking to be launched at a webinar at 5pm on Monday 24 May featuring affected communities in Pennsylvania, Fermanagh and Namibia

Register for the webinar here: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/human-rights-impacts-of-fracking-launch-of-nuig-hr-clinic-report-tickets-154392071843

Postgraduate law students at the NUIG Irish Centre for Human Rights have published a research report finding that fracking is incompatible with states’ human rights law obligations under numerous treaties. Based on their research, the students are campaigning for Ireland to sponsor a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a global ban on fracking. 

Rowan Hickie, one of the authors of the report entitled International Human Rights Impacts of Fracking, said: “Ireland has the opportunity to shine a global light of hope for other countries to follow, given the climate leadership it demonstrated when it banned fracking in 2017. The Irish Government previously recognised the need for a ban on public-health, environmental and climate grounds, and we became the first country in the world to commit to withdrawing public money invested in fossil fuels in 2018.” 

Michelle Drury, another of the NUI students, said: “The Irish Government is the first government worldwide to publish a policy against fracked gas imports and that policy statement expressly includes a commitment to ‘work with international partners to promote the phasing out of fracking at an international level’. We are now asking Minister Simon Coveney to sponsor a UN General Assembly Resolution that calls for a global ban on fracking. With the help of environmental, public health and legal experts in Ireland and around the world, we have drafted the wording for a General Assembly resolution and sent it to Minister Coveney to consider.” 

Bridget Geoghegan, one of the report’s authors, said: “Ireland is uniquely positioned to lead the effort as the global-north sponsor of the UN resolution calling for a global ban on fracking. Ireland’s tireless efforts to ban fracking and to stop the import of fracked gas have been in recognition of the very principles which underpin our draft resolution: that is, that fracking is an inherently harmful extraction process that has global impacts no matter where it is conducted, and no amount of regulation can adequately address all the problems that fracking causes.” 

Johnny McElligot from ‘Safety Before LNG’ said: “a wide variety of over 600 science, academic, grassroots, religious and NGO groups across the world have already signed up to a petition supporting Ireland proposing a call for a global ban on fracking at the United Nations. This proves that a UN call for a global ban on fracking would be very warmly received on both the national and international stage and we want Ireland to lead the way.’ 

The NUIG students’ report notes that a significant body of scientific evidence now exists to demonstrate that fracking is dangerous to public health, water, air, climate stability, farming, property, and economic vitality in ways that cannot be solved through regulation. This is a key conclusion of the 7th edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking produced by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility. The most recent Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking also finds:

“The evidence clearly demonstrates that the processes of fracking contribute substantially to anthropogenic harm, including climate change and global warming, and involve massive violations of a range of substantive and procedural human rights and the rights of nature.”

The students’ 56-page report analyses the existing scientific evidence alongside caselaw and other legal standards emanating from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The students’ report concludes that fracking is incompatible with states’ legal obligations to protect, respect and fulfil basic human rights including: 

  • the right to life​,
  • the right to health​,
  • the right to water​,
  • the right to food​,
  • the right to housing​,
  • the right to access to information​,
  • the right to public participation​,
  • the right to a safe, clean, and healthy environment, and
  • the rights of marginalized persons & communities. 

The report will be launched at a webinar at 5pm on Monday 24th May. Speakers will also include Lois Bjornson, whose community has been directly impacted by fracking activities in Pennsylvania; Dianne Little, whose community in Fermanagh risks being affected by fracking if the Department of Economy in Northern Ireland approves the current fracking application submitted by Tamboran Resources (UK) Ltd; and Ina-Maria Shikongo who will discuss the impacts of fracking in local communities in Namibia

The webinar will also feature anti-fracking campaigner Eddie Mitchell, of Love Leitrim, John McElligott from Safety Before LNG, Professor Shane Darcy and Dr Maeve O’Rourke of the Irish Centre for Human Rights

NOTES 

The postgraduate students’ report, authored by Rowan Hickie and Bridget Geoghegan, entitled International Human Rights Impacts of Fracking, is available here: ICHR Report International Human Rights Impacts of Fracking

A summary report is here: ICHR Summary Report International Human Rights Impacts of Fracking

The campaign for Ireland to support a UN General Assembly Resolution to ban fracking globally can be joined here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/12mir1zqXMI5TNCQzGK0HEHleSxoCWpe3t7v4jbntn2o/preview 

Previous students at the Irish Centre for Human Rights have authored a legal opinion finding that a Irish legislative ban on importing fracked gas to Ireland would be compatible with EU and WTO trade law. See more here: https://www.nuigalway.ie/irish-centre-human-rights/newsevents/towards-a-statutory-prohibition-on-importing-fracked-gas.html 

This work has been carried out as part of the Human Rights Law Clinic at the Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR), NUI Galway, under the supervision of Dr Maeve O’Rourke and Pearce Clancy. The ICHR at the School of Law, National University of Ireland Galway, is Ireland’s principal academic human rights institute. The ICHR undertakes human rights teaching, research, publications, and training, and contributes to human rights policy development nationally and internationally. 

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